Equipped, Empassioned, And Empowered

Dec 01, 2015

I’ve been reading my Bible this year with one particular theme in mind:  getting to know the Holy Spirit.  His character, his work and ministry in the earth and in the heart of man, his gifts, and his guidance of the church are more than just interesting to discover in the pages of Scripture; they are compelling and challenging to me, creating even greater desire in my heart to really know him.  I’m freshly realizing my own need to take Jesus seriously when he emphasizes the Spirit’s vital role in the lives of His people and in our mission in the world:

“John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…. you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses … to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:5,8, ESV)

While reading this morning about a first-century preacher and teacher named Apollos, I was reminded that even trained and seasoned men and women still need the power of the Spirit!  Take a look.

“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus.  He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord.  And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.”  (Acts 18:25, ESV)

Apollos is quite the guy!  His credentials are impressive:

  1. He comes from Alexandria, an influential university town.  This is a bit like saying someone today is from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Oxford, or Cambridge.
  2. He is an eloquent communicator, speaking well.
  3. He knows his material, thoroughly versed in Scripture.
  4. He has been instructed and trained in the way of the Lord.  This guy preaches Jesus.
  5. He is passionate and charismatic in his approach.  His personality burns brightly, enhancing his message!
  6. He is able to teach accurately about Jesus.

What’s not to like about Apollos?  He sounds like every seminary professor’s dream, and the ideal speaker any church or conference organizer would love to have on the docket.  He could be the next TED talk sensation!  Imagine a group of excited church members finding out that Apollos is going to lead the church with his outstanding communication skills.

We might be surprised to see that rather than lining up for an autograph or a parchment-signing, two followers of Jesus, Priscilla and Aquila, take him aside and explain to him “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).  To put it in more practical terms, two people who make tents for a living and who possibly lead a large home Bible study take a trained, skilled, Bible teacher aside and instruct him about something that is missing in his preaching.  Here’s what they observe:  he knows “only the baptism of John.”  John’s ministry had pointed to Jesus as the Savior, the Messiah, the ultimate sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and called people to turn from their sin in repentance.  There’s nothing wrong here; this is good stuff that wise Bible teachers still teach today, but remember Jesus’ words earlier?  “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  Apollos’ teaching indicates that he knows nothing about this baptism with the Spirit.  After talking with him, this is confirmed to Priscilla and Aquila.  Are we inferring more than Scripture actually says here?  No, what Scripture says is this:  “he knew only the baptism of John.”  That’s pretty straight-forward.

Apollos, who already taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, now receives instruction by these two tent-makers more accurately.  I really like what this says about Apollos.  He is educated, but not so full of his own pedigree that he can’t learn something new.  He is open to the input of others (who are bi-vocational church leaders, not full time professionals), and he is open to learning more than the baptism of John (repentance from sin and trust in the Messiah).  Apollos is teachable!  This man who is already “fervent in spirit” (which we often call having a charismatic, passionate personality) undoubtedly becomes fervent in the Spirit of God (which is what we mean by being a charismatic church).

Charismatic personality is not the same thing as being full of the Spirit.  Excellent preaching is not the same thing as being baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Bible training and study is extremely important and helpful to the church – and to every believer – but it doesn’t replace the much-needed ministry of the Spirit.  The baptism of repentance (and baptizing others in this way) is basic church teaching, but Jesus promises even more for us:  baptism in the Spirit.

Is education actually less important then?  Should we abandon degrees in communication or theology?  No, just as Apollos goes on to powerfully help the church through his public preaching, teaching, and apologetic skills, so God will use our training for his glory.  He might also surprise us by convincing more people through the caring hearts of a Spirit-filled church than our best arguments ever do.